October 31, 2017

Farmers Adjust To New Climate Norms Amid Long, Tricky Harvest

Article origination IPBS-RJC
A cornfield in Putnam County is seen just after harvest. - Annie Ropeik/IPB News

A cornfield in Putnam County is seen just after harvest.

Annie Ropeik/IPB News

Indiana’s corn harvest is still 10 percent behind schedule as of this week, with soybeans about on track, as a year of difficult farming conditions stretches into November.

The unpredictability of this year’s weather may be an unwelcome new normal for Hoosier agriculture, according to Purdue University agronomist Bob Nielsen.

In 2017, Indiana has seen a wet spring and long planting season, an over-warm start to fall and now, rains that are lengthening the multi-billion-dollar grain harvest. Nielsen says data shows extremes like those are becoming increasingly standard.

“I think, unfortunately, this is just sort of the situation we have to deal with … with this increase in climatic variability,” he says.

Nielsen says this year’s harvest will become more difficult as the fall wears on, but farmers can’t do much about it. He says their best bet is to be more resilient up front by controlling what they can earlier in the year – factors like seeds, soil and weeds.

“Those will all work together to help grow a crop that is more vigorous and more uniform and more healthy and therefore better able to tolerate some of these extremes,” he says.

Nielsen says this year’s corn harvest should get back on track if the next few weeks stay dry. Either way, he says, farmers will get the entire crop out of the ground sooner or later.

“By farming’s very nature, folks have to be flexible,” he says. “Because it’s always been a risky business.”

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